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March on Washington
August 28, 1963 and August 28, 2013

On August 28, 1963 many of the Turkey-2 group participated in the March On Washington.  Here are some of their stories 50 years later.

March on Washington, 1963 

Photo by Kevin McCarthy


The white arrow on the left points to Pat Mitchell Lowther and Myles Lovelace, the blue one to the right of her to Cindy Wardle Basile; the blue one on the right points to Nancy Bouse and Marianne Kane Bartin.

Melissa Meacham Stewart (T-2 1963-1965)
Turkey 2's were training at Georgetown in the summer of 1963.  Since we were not listening to the news we were not aware of what was happening.  Someone came in at breakfast time and told us that there was a march for equality going on in downtown Washington.  The food service packed lunches for those of us who wanted to go. 
Marianne Bartin Kane and I were together that day.  We rode the bus downtown and when we got off we were in an area where there were many buses parking,  arriving from all over (some people had been on the bus for several days).  People were very peacefully coming out of the doors and joining the throng singing "we shall overcome."  We joined the crowd and moved slowly and peacefully up to the mall.  We could see M.L. King as we were in the front section - but he looked about 6 inches tall.  It is an experience that stays with me.  At the time I did not realize what a big event this would be in history.  I would like other Turkey 2s to comment on their memories. 

We probably were the only P.C. group that were part of that.  One never knows when history involves you and you don't realize what an event it was until later.       

Kathy Markley Scruggs, (T-2 1963-1965)

We probably recall slightly different variations of the event with the passage of 50 years.  I was sure we had learned about the march a day or 2 earlier because we needed to tell our TEFL teachers we would not be in class.  In fact, Sol Rosen was refused "permission" to be absent but I think he walked anyway.  I thought we had walked to the mall with the Georgetown U group behind their banner but Melissa's probably right about the bus. I can see Mae Turner leading "We Shall Overcome". It was very hot and very crowded at the memorial but there was great joy and a feeling of anticipation.  We heard some musical performers.  I was next to 2 others in our group and one started to feel faint.  I figured we had to leave and knew that the best solution would be a slice of pie at Reeves on F St.  After the pie we walked back to the campus and entered Loyola Hall to find others watching a large TV and there was Martin Luther King, Jr. in the middle of his speech. I tell folks that I was in the March and heard his speech, all true,--and if I know them well I clarify that I actually heard the speech on TV. 

Tony Venegoni, Turkey-2 1963-1965

I can recall less than Kathy or Melissa. I don't remember going to the march, just being there. It was very hot and crowded and we couldn't see much as we were so far away. I thought, " Nuts with this. I am going to take the bus back to Georgetown and watch it on TV". Which I did. Like Kathy, I tell people I was there and I heard the speech. True! Had I know it would be one of the great historic speeches of the century I might have stayed.

Joan Strickler Weeks, T-9, 1965-1967

50 years ago on Aug. 22, 1963, I was going into my junior year in college but home for the summer.  Peace Corps was in my mind but I knew I wanted to graduate first.  I really wanted to go to the March on Washington but everyone around me, especially my family, was trying to leave town or stay home because they feared riots. I told everyone I was going to visit a friend at the beach which I did, only much later in the day.  I got on a bus in Falls Church and rode down to Arlington Towers near the Lincoln Memorial Bridge.  I walked across the bridge and down along Constitution Ave., and on every street corner there were soldiers with guns on their shoulders. 

Thousands of people were assembling but everyone was dressed like they were going to church on a Sunday. Ladies had hats and nice dresses, stockings and heels.  Men had white shirts, coats and ties even though it was a hot August day.  Everyone was so helpful and so considerate.  Each group was assembling ready to march to the Lincoln Memorial.  I was on my own so I asked a group of teachers from Prince Edward County if I could join them.  Nearby I found a sign  "We march for Integrated Schools Now!" 

We moved out on Constitution Ave. and everyone started singing "We shall Overcome."   I just keep moving forward once we got in the range of the Lincoln Memorial until I could go no further.  There was a small fence separating us from those with special invitations.  We sang and shared food then finally the program began.  After many speakers and hymns Dr. King appeared and his voice carried over  the silent crowd with "I have a dream."  I was so moved and so inspired that I just knew I had to get involved in the civil rights movement.  In my senior year  I wrote my sr. thesis on an analysis Gandhi's Siddhartha non-violent teachings, and how they influenced Dr. King's non-violent movement.   

After Peace Corps, I joined the Teacher Corps in West Virginia and started my first year in a rural school.  There were many civil rights protests in Huntington, W. Va., and on the weekends I became a tester trying to rent an apartment after a black family had been turned down.  I was ready to go on a freedom ride when on April 28th the horrible news came that Dr. King was dead.  I was in tears. The next day in the rural school they were cheering and saying he got what he deserved.  I immediately went into Huntington and asked the Teacher Corps office to transfer me to Huntington to an inner city school.  The second year I taught in an almost totally black school.  After Teacher Corps I moved to Washington, DC and taught in an inner city school for 11 years until my husband took a job in England. 

The 1963 March on Washington has had a profound impact on me.   I put together a webpage with my photos at: http://faculty.cua.edu/weeks/marc/march63.html . I still have my sign and button and plan to go down to the mall and do it all over again 50 years later.  

Post script:  I went back to the Lincoln Memorial yesterday for the 50th anniversary with my sign, photo and badge and ended up getting interviewed on Fox 5 news. 

Marie Zeller  (T-2 1963-1965)

I was in Washington DC for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. It was a big deal. My recollection consists of images and feelings, as much if not more than the specifics of the actual march. I do recall the heat of the day, the images of people who had dressed up with ties and suits, dresses and high heels as if going to church, the crowd swaying together while singing a song we had just heard, and the feeling that I was participating in a very important public showing of unity and that it was possible to live and work together.

I was walking with the Peace Corps group who was training at Georgetown to go to Turkey and Iran. As we got closer to the Reflecting Pool, I paired up with a tall black guy who was training for Iran and we proceeded to about the middle of the pool half way between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument when I saw signs with saying -- Church of the Brethren. This is the church of which my father was a minister and in which I had been raised. We went over to talk to them and realized that they had staked out a position approximately in the middle of the 200,000 people who were there that day. (Please see the attached pictures from the church magazine.)

We heard the songs and the speeches from loud speakers that were positioned high in the trees along the Mall (rickety, I'm sure, by today's standards).

Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech, which we heard the first time it was preached that day, is still quoted far and wide. In my family alone, my father, Harry K. Zeller, used that speech and that day of marching together as the basis for a number of his sermons. My brother, Richie Zeller, a University professor in Ohio, used that speech and my participation in that march, as the foundation of one of his lectures in sociology.

That day was a great day -- even bearing in mind that events in our lives can take on a greater meaning the more time passes. It was a great day then. And I still recall it as having been a great day now.

But, as we look around, we know that here and now -- 50 years later -- there is still much more that needs to happen -- for fairness and human interaction and peace.


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JFK Assassination

Recollections of RPCV Christmases in Turkey